WITH a great degree of frustration and disbelief, I pen this letter in response to an atrocity that was published in Kaieteur online newspaper, titled “Guyanese messengers of death from Cuba have returned”. It is dated November 18, 2016 and was unprofessionally drafted by Freddie Kissoon.Now I guess it’s safe for one to conclude that in Guyana there is a battery of overqualified veteran journalists who live up to the standards and true meaning of investigative journalism, an unpopular/smaller group of others who try feverishly in this regard (for whom much credit should be given); and then there is this Freddie Kissoon, who, with his latest gymnastics, has now left a dark cloud hanging over the credibility of the local media body.
Mr. Kissoon: I do not know you, I have never met you, and I certainly have no intentions of meeting you either; but your article is provocatively scandalous, vindictive, infantile, vulgar, middling, and laced with grammatically incorrect paragraphs of untruth.
Quite frankly, this kind of writing style is one I would expect from a delinquent, uneducated or misguided individual.
You have centred your article on a weak foundation of four pillars, which I found to be exceptionally unfitting, and revealing nothing more than a poor attempt at proper investigative journalism. So, in retrospect, I will try my best to fashion my responses around them.
Apparently, a large sample of our local constituency believes that somehow, good health services/doctors /diagnosis are paralleled with the old/seemingly experienced doctors. That flawed belief couldn’t have been any further from the truth. And while I can’t speak for the rest, I can say this much: I’m damn good at what I do. My reputation and track record working across Region 10 can flawlessly attest to that.
Cuba’s health and education systems are the island’s most prized assets, and are often used as models for other countries around the world, including Guyana. Mr. Kissoon is undoubtedly clueless about how the Cuban health care program functions, and was obviously ill-informed by his “friend”, to whom he referred in his article.
Guyana isn’t the only country that sends its subjects to pursue studies in various disciplines in Cuba. And this, Mr. Kissoon, serves as more than a motive for you to amplify your knowledge. Cuba is largely responsible for the training of many professionals around the world, claiming almost all of South and Latin Americas, many Caribbean islands, various countries on the African continent, China, Russia, and of course the United States of America. Even Guyana’s present and past governments have Cuban graduates.
You should also know, Mr. Kissoon, that American and Cuban medical practitioners cross borders for fellowship at hospitals in both territories biannually. So, categorically speaking, your meagre attempt to disparage and demonize Cuba’s health care programme can be deemed as a miserably failed attempt.
The genesis of project ALBA, back in 2004, or “ALTERNATIVA BOLIVARIANA PARA LAS AMERICAS”, a brainchild of former President of Venezuela H.E. Hugo Rafael Chavez Frias and President of the Republic of Cuba, H.E. Fidel Castro Ruz, which sought to improve many sectors in Latin America, especially in health, is singularly responsible for the training of some 10,000 Latin American primary health care physicians over a 10-year period.
Guyana benefited momentously, as its usual annual quota of medical hopefuls increased by almost fourfold during that period.
Mr. Kissoon noted in his article that he had to send soap, detergent and other toiletries to his “friend”. And I would like to highlight that this is a serious case of treason! When I began my studies back in 2006 in Cuba, we were all given monthly supplies of basic toiletries under the ALBA project. These lies, I can attest, are suffocating and very disrespectful.
The four dimensions Mr. Kissoon based his article on are horrendously misguided, and reflect only inadequacies in his training as a journalist, let alone an investigative one. And if this isn’t a half-baked journalist, then I don’t know what else is. Fidel Castro’s revolution back in 1959 assured him and the Cuban people the ousting of the Mafia Batista government, and from that very moment Castro became a high-profile enemy of the imperialist.
Six sitting presidents before Reagan have since applied severe commercial and financial pressure on the island (Dwight D. Eisenhower, commander in chief at the time of Fidel’s revolution; Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford and Carter), and their rage grew thicker as the relationship between Fidel and then Russian president Nikita Khruschchev favourably developed. Unfortunately, this isn’t a history class, so I won’t get into details. But yes, Russia’s support to Cuba back then shouldered more than 70% of Cuba’s economy; and with the fall of the USSR in 1991, Cuba’s fate took a turn for the worse.
I personally find Mr. Kissoon’s second dimension perforating, depressing, bizarre and outrageous. He hallucinates that the Cuban scholarship was all Cuba could have afforded to Third World countries, and that it never exported anything in the form of aid to these nations. This man’s dementia is far beyond what I had initially anticipated, and the situation is very appalling. The Republic of Cuba helped Angola during the civil war of the latter, where Cuban forces fought alongside the Marxist–Leninist People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola Government; against the Western-backed National Union for the Total Independence of Angola, and the National Liberation Front of Angola guerrillas, who were aided by the South-African Army.
Cuba has also been the first country to offer aid to Haiti after every single natural disaster that would have rocked the island over the past three decades. Cuba is, moreover, responsible for singlehandedly completing eradication of illiteracy in many Latin American and African countries via the ‘Operacion Milagro’ (Miracle Vision) programme, which runs internationally; and Cuba offered over 1000 medical professionals to Brazil for the recently concluded Olympics, just to name a few things.
The part of Kissoon’s article that made me laugh the most was when he pointed out that our professors were ordinary doctors; that we studied in mediocre rural medical schools, and he went as far as even labelling our training as ‘half-baked’.
Honestly speaking, the only thing rural here is Mr. Kissoon’s apparent state of delusion. And I’m sitting here thinking that when he was naming his article, he was referring to his friend…or the informant.
Cuba’s medical system is designed for students to complete their preclinical years in schools across the island; and upon its completion, they are transferred to grade one hospitals to do their five major rotations for the remaining three or four years of their training. That Mr. Kissoon’s friend told him otherwise simply means that he failed to pass his basic preclinical examinations and was subsequently expelled from the programme.
Kissoon’s volatile attack on the Cuban professors wasn’t warranted. And in all my major rotations at various hospitals in Havana (And I did my internship there), I’m yet to come across an “ordinary” professor. They were all 100 times more qualified than you will ever be in your life, Mr. Kissoon; so let’s not even go there.
One of my paediatrics lecturers was even a former Health Minister of the island. One of the same “half-baked” doctors you refer to in your article is now studying at a top ranked German-based Chinese University, well renowned internationally for its research and the calibre of professionals it produces. And guess what? This same “half baked” doctor is on top of his game, standing out among hundreds of others trained elsewhere.
It’s funny how every time something happens at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation, the Cuban graduates are exclusively the ones to be blamed. For those of you who didn’t know, the GPHC is also graced with doctors who were locally trained, as well as foreign doctors particularly from Australia and the United States of America. So this general stereotype of Cuban trained doctors being responsible for every little mishap that happens to every Tom, Dickisha and Kissoon must stop! Level your criticisms impartially.
I am personally aware of a few of my colleagues who arguably may need a little more supervision when on the floor. You guys know yourselves, please reflect, ask for guidance/help. The public is watching. Assistance is all around you. We must never say or think we know everything, and this includes me. Let’s all stay focused… we all have a job to do, I know many of you are taken aback since the publishing of this article, but I urge you not to be discouraged by the remarks of elements of such nature, as this is a clear case of Attention Deficit Disorder, which warrants immediate psychiatric evaluation.
To all Cuban nationals working in the health sector back home, and especially to the Cuban Government, on behalf of ourselves, and in part from the Guyana Government (they, too, should be offering an apology), please do not hold us responsible for such a blasphemous review of your programme, as it was simply conscripted by an attention-seeking man. We look forward for continued bilateral relations with the Republic of Cuba.
DR. ALLAN JOHN OUTRIDGE Jnr. M.D.
Beijing, The People’s Republic of China